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Public sector workers take more time off sick with mental health problems

Mental health charity Mind said its research revealed a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people do speak up. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

ALMOST half of public sector workers have been forced to take time off work because of problems with their mental health, a large new survey has found.

Mental health charity Mind said its research revealed a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people do speak up.

The poll of more than 12,000 workers from across the UK – more than 5,700 of whom were public sector employees – found that 48% have had time off because of their mental health, compared with 32% of the private sector workforce.

Public sector workers had, on average, taken nearly three days off sick in the last year because of their mental health, compared with just under a day for those in the private sector.

Fifteen percent of those in the public sector claim to have poor mental health compared with 9% from the private sector.

Of those with a mental health problem, more workers from the public sector felt able to open up about it to their employer.

But less than half (49%) said they felt supported when they disclosed mental health issues, compared with 61% in the private sector.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “A vital part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems is to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops people opening up about what they are experiencing.

“But it’s also vital that when people do speak out they get the right help and support at the right time. It’s clear there is still a long way to go in both the public and private sector to address the gap between people asking for support and actually getting what they need.

“By promoting well-being for all staff, tackling the causes of work-related mental health problems and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems, organisations can help keep people at work and create mentally healthy workplaces where people are supported to perform at their best.”